Thursday, November 29, 2012

What I've been reading: November 2012

Somehow, amidst all the hurricanes, snowstorms, and holiday shenanigans, I managed to carve out some reading time.  Although, come to think of it, it's easy to find time to read if you've lost power for two days and are trapped in your house by a 40 foot pine tree, amirite?  The first three titles in November's list were read during that bit of fun.

Ice Cold, by Tess Gerritsen.  You know what they say about good intentions, right?  It's just those intentions, to be spontaneous, in particular, that land Boston medical examiner Maura Isles in an abandoned village in the middle of nowhere, stranded with fellow travelers in the midst of a snowstorm.  Bad goes to worse as injury, isolation, and some creepy goings-on have the group scared for their lives.  Meanwhile, Jane Rizzoli has received word that Maura's charred remains were found in a car wreck.  Maura was supposed to be at a conference, so what would she be doing in the mountains, miles away?  Rizzoli is determined to find out.  Suspense at its finest, Gerritsen never disappoints.  322 pages.

Mallory's Oracle, by Carol O'Connell.  I did mention I'd be back to start this series from the beginning, and here we are at long last.  Kathleen Mallory, former street kid, was adopted and raised by a kind NYPD sergeant and his wife, eventually joining the force herself.  Unorthodox and volatile, she is a force to be reckoned with when her beloved father is murdered.  While she is officially barred from investigating, unofficially, she is determined to see justice done.  Twisted and chock-full of red herrings, this is a great mystery.  286 pages.

NW, by Zadie Smith.  I cannot tell a lie: this is not an easy book, and it is not for everyone.  This is a seedier side of the London we see in the media.  Leah, Nathan, Natalie and Felix are all residents of London's NW, who have grown up together in a council estate in Caldwell and are now trying to find themselves as adults.  Appearances may be deceiving, and in most cases, usually are.  Those who seem a success in one story are hopeless in another.  Smith's storytelling style is uniquely poetic, and takes a bit of work to get into, but in my opinion, it is absolutely worth it.  If you find the narrative hard, I highly recommend the audiobook.  401 pages.

Heft, by Liz Moore.  Relationships of the most tenuous kind are at the sweetly sad heart of this novel.  An adult man, abandoned by his father and smothered by his mother, is now a shut in.  A teenaged sports star hides his home life and pretends to fit in with the other kids in his school.  How these two people are connected is thready at best, but their stories are so poignant and engrossing, one can't help but root for them.  Surprisingly moving.  352 pages.

The Silent Girl, by Tess Gerritsen.  I'm nearly caught up with the series, and I'm a bit sad about that, but that just means there's more time for reading other things, right?  In this installment, a nameless woman is found dead on a rooftop in Boston's Chinatown, and Rizzoli's gut instinct tells her they're not dealing with an average homicide.  True to her instinct, the case takes Rizzoli and Isles back more than twenty years, through the streets of Chinatown, and following leads that tie into a series of disappearances that have gone unsolved for decades.  Beautifully crafted suspense, as always.  315 pages.

Madness, by Marya Hornbacher.  This latest non-fiction work from Hornbacher, author of memoir Wasted and novel The Center of Winter, chronicles her life with Type 1 rapid-cycle bipolar disorder, a diagnosis that did not come until she was 24.  Told in Hornbacher's wry, raw voice, this is a story of desperation and hope, as she tries repeatedly to self-medicate in order to cope with her violent mood swings before finally finding her way to treatment.  Even then, she describes the balancing act of a life and marriage when the disorder is always at the edges of her vision.  Eye opening and thought provoking.  320 pages.

Flight Behavior, by Barbara Kingsolver.  You can read my review here.  Short answer?  I loved it.   433 pages.

The Song Reader, by Lisa Tucker.  Ever had a song that you just couldn't get out of your head?  What if that song was the key to unlocking what you really felt, and that someone could give you advice based on it?  Mary Beth can give that advice, and she's always right.  Her little sister Leanne is in awe of her, as is most of the town.  But when Mary Beth makes a mistake, half the town turns against their small family, and it's up to younger sister Leanne to decipher the meanings.  Read this one for the book club, and I was pleasantly surprised with it.  Looking forward to discussing it, too!  306 pages.

The reading challenge statistics:

November totals:

9 titles
2,420 pages

Year-to-date totals:

73/100 titles = 73%
28,670/50,000 pages = 57%

I'm going to make an effort to finish strong for the year, and then reassess the challenge for next year.  Anyone interested in doing one, too?

I'll be back next week with titles to look forward to in the New Year.  In the meantime, happy reading!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Reading Ahead: December 2012, the late edition

Consider this the late edition of December's Reading Ahead list.  At this time of year, publishers play fast and loose with release dates, and the result?  Lists like these, of titles that were originally slated for early 2013.  What made the list?

City of Dark Magic, by Magnus Flyte

The Intercept, by Dick Wolf

Empire and Honor, by W.E.B. Griffin and William E. Butterworth

Political Suicide, by Michael Palmer

Nano, by Robin Cook

Threat Vector, by Tom Clancy and Mark Greaney

Are you looking at the list and wondering about those two at the top?  The first, City of Dark Magic, is a first novel, and one that's getting a lot of positive press.  Fans of books by Lev Grossman, Erin Morgenstern or Deborah Harkness should definitely take note of this one--magic, murder and time travel in Prague, all with ties to Beethoven's "Immortal Beloved".  I am very interested to see if this lives up to the hype.  

Recognize the name of the second author?  It might be because you're used to seeing his name attached to things like all of the Law & Order TV series and the new series, Chicago Fire.  Wolf was a copywriter early in his career, so I'm curious as to whether his previous experience will serve him in good standing here.  But with decades of successful television shows under his belt, my guess is that this tense thriller featuring NYPD detective Jeremy Fisk is going to be a winner.

Hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving, and you're looking for a good book to sink your teeth into.  I'll be back on Thursday to share what I've been reading this past month.  Happy reading!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Can't keep it to myself: Flight Behavior

In this time of thinking about what we're thankful for, a good book is always near the top of my list.  This most recent title from Barbara Kingsolver, Flight Behavior, is absolutely a title I'm thankful for right now, and I had to share.  I am, admittedly, a huge fan of Kingsolver's work, and have mentioned my favorite, Prodigal Summer, on the blog more than once.  Her turns of phrase are so precise and evocative, they stay with me and give me such gorgeous, clear images of her characters and settings.  In truth, I fight with myself when reading her books, alternately wanting to gobble the story as fast as I can read, and wanting to linger and savor the nuances.  Perhaps that's why I so often re-read her work, and discover something new every time.  Flight Behavior?  It is everything I had hoped for, and more.

I should start by saying that I listened to this novel, and I am so glad that I did.  Some authors read their work perfectly, with excellent inflection and a voice you could cheerfully listen to for hours.  Kingsolver is absolutely one of these, and did the reading for Flight Behavior.  I'm not the swooning type, but this discovery made me downright giddy. 

Dellarobia Turnbow never intended the life she tries to make peace with.  A shotgun wedding at seventeen to a boy who, it seems, will never mature, is followed by losing that baby and trying for five years to have another.  Living in the shadow of her in-laws, missing her own recently-deceased mother, and feeling as though she's missing something vital in her life, Dellarobia becomes obsessed with a younger man who is not her husband, as though this tryst will fill the hole in her life.  On her walk through the woods to meet him, though, she finds the forest ablaze with silent fiery light, and during this pause, decides to turn back for home.

One moment, unexplainable by Dellarobia, changes her life and her attitude--for her, it is a cautionary miracle, a silent blaze of warning.  When the phenomenon is discovered by others, however, the media, scientists, and religious leaders who swarm in on the small Appalachian town all have their own interpretations and opinions.  From levels personal to global, this strikes chords both in the book and in the reader.  I honestly cannot recommend this book highly enough.

A Happy Thanksgiving to my readers, and I will be back next week with a list of what else I've been reading this month.  Happy reading!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Read it before you watch it

I know, I know.  I'm a librarian, and of course the book was better than the movie.  Now that we've gotten the expected response out of the way, I can say that it is often the case, but not always.  There are a slew of new movies coming out in the next couple of months based on great books, and on the off chance you'd like a head-start on them before you hit the theaters, here we go...

The Life of Pi, by Yann Martel.  A young man survives a terrible shipwreck, only to be stranded with another survivor...a Bengal tiger.  The book has been hugely popular among readers since its publication in 2001. 

Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy.  I had to read this in high school.  And I actually liked it.  If you'd like to say you've read one of those weighty tomes of great literature, you could do much worse.  Passion, betrayal, fighting of social norms in order to find happiness.  This is one that I'm actually really excited to see in the theaters, and not just for Jude Law and Keira Knightly who are cast in the leads.  The screenplay was written by the amazing Tom Stoppard, knighted as a British playwright and a prolific writer for not just stage but also television, film and radio--you might also know him from his screenplay of Shakespeare in Love.

The Hobbit, or, There and Back Again, by J.R.R. Tolkien.  I admit it.  I'm a bit of a Tolkien geek.  And I loved The Lord of the Rings movies.  So I am a little giddy with anticipation of next month's release of The Hobbit's first installment.  If you've never considered reading this, I have to ask you to reconsider.  There is so much more to this than elves and little guys with fuzzy feet.  I promise.

One Shot, by Lee Child.  This one, I think I can safely say, is a no-brainer.  Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher?  I don't see it.  But if you want the story without the Cruise, try One Shot, which next month's movie is based on.  I promise, Lee Child doesn't disappoint. 

Speaking of odd choices in casting...  Tyler Perry as Alex Cross?  I'm sorry, but what in the actual hell?  I know, it's been out and is probably going to be on DVD in a minute and a half, but still.  What?  Look.  I'm not a huge fan of James Patterson's more recent work, but the early Cross novels were great.  I even really liked the film adaptations, I mean, Morgan Freeman.  What's not to like, right?  I can't even be serious about this latest reboot of the film franchise, Matthew Fox as Picasso aside.  Do yourselves a favor.  Go to the library and get Cross off the shelf instead.  Trust the librarian on this one.

I'm back next week with a few things to be thankful for.  In the meantime, happy reading (and watching!).

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Three on Thursday: The Colonies

It's funny how thoughts collide.  For instance, the recent storm has had many of us learning to make do without electricity here in the Northeast recently.  And we're coming up on Thanksgiving.  Somehow, the combination has me thinking about the early colonies in America, and what you have here are a few titles that might get you thinking about how thankful we are for some of our more modern conveniences...

Caleb's Crossing, by Geraldine Brooks.  I cannot tell a lie.  I love Geraldine Brooks.  She has the ability to take a slim stalk of fact and use it to weave the most amazing novels.  Here, a young man in 1665 becomes the first Native American to graduate from Harvard.  This much is fact.  The lens we view his story through is that of a young woman, envying Caleb his education as it is closed to her, and following his relative freedom from her own position as an indentured servant.  Bold and wild as an untamed continent.

Blackbird House, by Alice Hoffman.  Set in the outer reaches of Cape Cod, in a single dwelling, these interconnected stories follow the women who live in Blackbird House over the course of two hundred years, from the British occupation of Massachusetts to the present day.  These lives are full of love and hope, fear and betrayal, secrets and the sharing of truths.  Bonus: if you like this collection of stories, you might also enjoy Hoffman's The Red Garden, which has a different location and set of characters, but a similar span of history across a number of stories.  Both give some great insight on the endurance of the human spirit, and an illuminating look at certain periods in our history.

The Fort, by Bernard Cornwell.  If you'd prefer your fiction with a bit more military flair, The Fort may be just what you're looking for.  Set in Maine during the American Revolution, the story follows events of the summer of 1779, when much of the major fighting had moved south in the colonies.  Yet on the coast of New England, a small contingent of British soldiers set up a garrison, sheltering loyalists and harassing privateers.  Among those caught up in the ensuing skirmish is one young colonel, Paul Revere.  Think you know how this story goes?  You might be very surprised.

Have some favorites set in this time period that you'd like to recommend?  Leave me a comment!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Reading Ahead: December 2012, part 2

Things here at the library are finally back to normal after Hurricane Sandy gave us all a good pummeling last Monday.  I'm hoping that you are all safe and sound, with power and heat again.  I know for many, myself included, last week was grueling in so many ways.  On the first day without power, I was actually trapped at home, as a huge pine in our yard had fallen on our cars, and we were stuck with no way out until the tree service came to remove it so that we could assess the damage.  Let me tell you, I did a TON of reading while it was light enough to do so.  I'm talking, starting my third book by the time we were starting to lose the light.  What can I say?  Sometimes I read to escape.  The list of books I've read for this month should be pretty hefty with such a big head-start.

Speaking of escaping, here is the second half of the small-but-mighty list of big titles to be published in December.

Shiver, by Karen Robards

Private London, by James Patterson and Mark Pearson

Too Bright to Hear, Too Loud to See, by Juliann Garey 

There actually were several more titles to be added to this list, but with no power or computers at the library for most of last week, our orders are a bit behind and I don't have information to share on them.   So you may find part three to this list later in the month, once we're caught up again.  It's the last title on this part of the list that has my interest piqued, as the reviews have been unanimously raving.  A studio executive, who has been hiding his bipolar disorder for 20 years, finally decides to let his disorder have its head and leaves his family for a decade, traveling and being himself for the first time.  It's being described as poignant, brilliant and powerful, and I think it could be along the lines of Emma Donoghue's Room for a powerful stunner.  

Let me know how you all made out with the storm, and if you have any great reads to share!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Reading Ahead: December 2012, part 1

I can't imagine where the time is going, that we are already talking about books to be released in December! The list for next month's releases is lean, but mean.  There may not be tons of books to put on your request or holiday list, but those that are due out are sure to be winners.

Bone Tree, by Greg Iles

Two Graves, by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

The Child’s Child, by Barbara Vine

Shadow Creek, by Joy Fielding

Valley of the Shadow, by Carola Dunn

So, of course, the question now is, what does the librarian add to her list?  For me, the dynamic duo of Preston & Child can do little wrong.  And if you're wondering about Barbara Vine?  You many not know that this is actually a pen name of bestselling author Ruth Rendell.  A fan of Rendell's?  Looks like you have a new treasure trove of books to read!  Finally, in addition to Vine's newest, if you're a mystery reader, you really ought to try Carola Dunn's Cornish mystery series.  Wry, witty, and very readable.

Hope everyone's survived the storm, and I'll be back next week with the other half of the up-and-coming titles.  Happy reading!